Visit the famed Marathon Sea Turtle Hospital and learn all about these beautiful and endangered creatures.
The Turtle Hospital is a small non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles, and is entirely supported by the interest and generosity of people like you.
Marathon has numerous Sea Turtle nesting beaches, both public and private. During turtle nesting season, which runs from April 15 to October 31 each year, loggerhead sea turtles return to their home beaches to lay eggs.
The mamma turtles emerge from the sea and crawl to a sandy spot on the beach where she digs a large hole with her flippers and then lays her eggs. After the eggs are safely in the hole, the momma covers them up with sand and then returns to the sea. The eggs remain in the hole, with no attention from the mother, until the eggs hatch. The hatchling turtles dig their way out of the sand and then with great haste and effort try to make it to the ocean before birds or predators can snatch them from their journey.
All species of Sea Turtles are on the endangered species list and are threatened only because of the actions of man. From over harvesting them to eat, hitting them with our boats to polluting the ocean waters with fishing nets, lines and plastics, we are the reason the sea turtles are not thriving.
Most injured or sick sea turtles can be helped and with intervention and expert medical attention, can be returned to the ocean. With so many sea turtles impacted negatively in the Keys, a movement in Marathon was born to try to help them in a meaningful way. In 1986, the nonprofit Turtle Hospital opened its doors in Marathon, the middle island in the Florida Keys, with the mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles back into the ocean, their native environment. The Turtle Hospital works closely with the University of Florida and the University of Georgia College of Veterinarian Medicine as well as expert marine biologists.
The Turtle Hospital has successfully treated and released over 1500 sea turtles since its beginning. Whenever an injured, sick or disoriented sea turtle is found on land or a beach, the turtle hospital will send its Turtle Ambulance to pick up the Turtle to assess its health and condition. After a thorough examination, the sea turtle is then released to the sea. If it needs medical attention, it will be admitted to the Hospital until it can be returned to its mother ocean. The same occurs for those turtles brought in by the coast guard or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. With the primary goal of the Hospital to get healthy sea turtles back to the ocean, multiple turtle releases of the loggerheads are done often on Marathon’s beaches and the public is invited to attend.
There are some sea turtles who are permanent residents and patients at the hospital. Because of their compromised health conditions, they can never be released to the ocean. These sea turtles can be visited and seen at the Hospital during the tour along with the temporary patients.
Because rescuing, rehabbing and releasing sea turtles, as well as taking care of any can not return to the ocean, is a complete act of love from mankind to the sea and its creatures.
You can keep the beaches clean, be aware of and stay clear of any marked turtle nests, reduce artificial light close to the beaches that can distract and confuse mothers and their hatchlings. You can also make sure that you do not lose any plastic or fish nets to the ocean while boating or beaching.
Take an afternoon or morning tour of the facility (reservations) visit the gift shop or adopt a sea turtle. The Hospital has state of the art medical equipment and part of the tour is to see the operating room that has a hydraulic operating table, x-ray machine, and anesthesiology equipment as well.
The gift shop is a terrific place to find gifts to take home to children and adults alike. If you cannot fit in a tour, a stop at the gift shop is worth the effort and it helps our Hospital stay open.
The Hospital operates solely from donations, grants and the proceeds from its facility tours, educational experiences and gift shop.
Our team and owners absolutely love sea turtles and we greatly respect the service that the Turtle Hospital provides to our community and to sea turtles. We have adopted a resident patient sea turtle for each of our 5 houses and we are in talks with the Turtle Hospital to go even farther in a more meaningful sponsorship. We hope to have an announcement on our sponsorship soon.
As a way of supporting our Turtle Hospital, we adopted one permanent sea turtle patient for each of our houses. Below are their stories and messages to you:
Hi friends, I am a green sea turtle named April. I was rescued April 1st, 1991 which is how I received my name.I’m actually a boy but they didn’t know that when I was named.
I had to be rescued because I was covered in tumors caused by a virus called fibropapilloma. Doctors at The Turtle Hospital removed all my tumors but the ones that had grown on my eyes were so bad that I had to have my right eye removed. I still have my left eye but the tumors damaged it very badly and I do not see very well out of that eye.
Being almost completely blind means I would not be able to survive in the wild so now I call The Turtle Hospital home. I have learned how to navigate safely around my large saltwater pool and taught my caretakers a few tricks that help me get plenty of food.
When you visit me you might even get a chance to see my unique “April dance”, when I spin in circles and bob my head up and down.
Hello everyone, my name is Bubble Butt. I have lived at The Turtle Hospital since 1989, longer than any of the other turtles. I’m a green sea turtle and the very first sea turtle ever rescued with a condition called “bubble butt syndrome”, that’s why they named it after me.
This condition developed from a boat hitting me which caused an injury that allows air to be trapped under my shell.
Because of the injury, I am unable to dive underwater making it impossible for me to survive in the wild. Here at the hospital I wear a weight on my shell that allows me to go to the bottom of the pool where I enjoy taking naps. I also enjoy welcoming all the guests to The Turtle Hospital, eating as much food as possible and being king of the pool. I am very popular with the kiddos and quite possibly the most famous sea turtle in The Florida Keys!
It’s easy to spot me in the pool, my shell is wider in the front narrow in the back and I have a long thick tail because I’m a boy.
Hey there folks, I’m Montel, an adult male green sea turtle. Boy, do I have a story for you!
I had to be rescued in 2001 because I got entangled in fishing line but while I was stuck, a boat hit me and a shark attacked me. Now I only have one short little front flipper but on top of all of that I had fibropapilloma tumors and the doctors here had to remove my right eye.
It would be really hard for me to survive in the wild so now I live at the hospital safe from sharks, boats & other things that could hurt me.
Since I had so much drama before I was rescued I’m named after “The Montel Williams Show”. I don’t let my past bother me though, I love to cruise around my pool looking for anything tasty to eat and I’m pretty laid back and easy going.
But every once in a while, I get to feeling mischievous and sneak up on the other turtles and give them a little love bite.
Greeting folks, I’m a loggerhead sea turtle named Rebel. I have lived at The Turtle Hospital since 1991. A boat strike caused me to develop “bubble butt syndrome” and left me paralyzed in my hind flippers. In this condition I cannot survive in the wild so I am a permanent member of The Turtle Hospital family.
I’m an adult male and one of the largest turtles at the hospital. Sometimes I like to be big and tough and boss the other turtles but other times I’m just a big old’ sweetheart and let my friend Bender hide underneath me when we are resting at the bottom of the pool.
I love to eat squid but I also like to steal romaine lettuce leaves from the green sea turtles just to remind them that I am the boss.
I’m easy to spot with my large head, dark shell and long tail but if you don’t see me swimming around, I have most likely settled into one of my favorite spots on the bottom of the pool for a nap which I enjoy quite often.
Nice to meet you, my name is Bender. I am one of the rarest sea turtles on Earth since I am a Kemp’s Ridley.
I had to be rescued in 2005 because I had become entangled and hit by a boat. I lost my front left flipper because of the entanglement and the boat strike caused me to have bubble butt syndrome.
I am no longer able to survive in the wild so I am a permanent member of The Turtle Hospital family. I tend to be quite shy and like to hide at the bottom of my pool unless it’s time for my favorite snack, squid stuffed with shrimp!
I could possibly be one of the oldest sea turtles at the hospital and can easily be identified by my light coloration which is how I earned my nickname “ghost turtle”.Have your camera ready if you are visiting my pool so if I do make an appearance at the surface you can get a picture before I disappear like a ghost.